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Opinion

Why You Need to Vote—Even If You Don't Want To

Politics matter. Elections have consequences for people who are not just you.

How to Vote
Design by Erin Lux

All across the country, votes are being suppressed. In North Dakota, Native Americans are struggling to vote in the face of new voter ID restrictions from the GOP. In Kansas, judges have ruled against adding another polling place in Dodge City. The one currently available is outside of town, a mile away from a bus stop. It is likely not a coincidence that this is a hotly contested race and the town is 61 percent Hispanic.

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Which is why it is so infuriating to read about young people who can vote, but are choosing not to.

If you are in this position—if you don’t feel like voting—vote. Just vote.

There are always a certain number of people, almost all of whom seem to be young and not in situations where they can’t vote, who feel that they will not vote because a candidate is not inspiring enough to them. Some people feel that their consciences will not allow them to vote for a candidate who only favors incremental progress.

To which I can say, do you know what incremental progress is? Progress. The alternative is going backwards or stagnating. Very little happens quickly if a large group of people have to agree on it. That’s a good thing. This is the reason that, for instance, Donald Trump can not overturn the 14th amendment by executive order. Promises of slow, moderate progress are the only promises that can be kept by politicians.

"Do you know how you get politicians who care more about your opinions? By voting."

It may well be the case that many politicians do not care about the specific issue that you care about. Do you know how you get politicians who care more about your opinions? By voting. Politicians care deeply about the positions of the elderly because those guys vote in enormous numbers—in 2010, 61 percent of those older than 65 voted, only 21 percent of people 18-24 did. That is a reason to vote, even if you’re in an area which will almost certainly vote for your favored party. It shows politicians that young people are voters, who will vote them out if they don’t listen to them.

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Some people feel they are not informed enough to vote. Being uninformed is not like being green-eyed or Italian or a vampire. You can choose to become informed. For instance, you can look at both candidates webpages (they have them, no matter where you are) and you can see if they support issues you care about. You can do it right now. I’ll wait.

Done? Cool. I imagine that took less than 15 minutes.

And in those 15 minutes, perhaps you noted that the two parties are not the same. While there is certainly corruption on both sides, one side is addressing climate change as a real problem the other is not. One party is overwhelmingly in favor of forced birth, the other is overwhelmingly not. One party is for gun control, the other is not.

I guess two parties are two sides to the same coin insofar as the sides of an American coin bear absolutely no resemblance to each other. One side is a human head and the other side is an eagle, a bird that Republicans are okay killing. I used to think that people who are disaffected enough to use the “they’re both the same” argument were privileged enough to have politics never apply to them, but climate change will effect every single one of us. In any event, if you think Hillary Clinton would be standing up right now enthusiastically talking about gunning down immigrants seeking asylum at the border, you are, and I say this with all due respect, an utter moron.

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Do you think you punish politicians by abstaining? Hahaha, no. You do not. I think politicians are sad if they don’t win elections. I think they stay in their well-appointed homes for a few weeks, and accept care packages from supporters, and go on long walks and angrily watch their opponent on television. And then, after a few weeks or months, they get up and write a book, or go on a speaking tour, or become a television pundit. They are not the people who suffer if you do not vote. They’re just fine.

"The people who suffer are the most vulnerable people in the country."

The people who suffer are the most vulnerable people in the country. If the democrats take back the house on November 6, there’s a chance that some progress might happen. God willing, we could push for changes on climate change—and keep in mind, experts agree that we’ve only got 12 years to avert total planetary destruction. We could insure trans people are allowed to serve in the military, and show that the United States is committed to inclusivity. We could restart the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. We might even be able to call for investigations into the sexual assault accusations about Trump.

But, in spite of that, you still feel the two leaders who have a realistic shot at winning are not great. Well, guess what, you could have been another option. You could have chosen to run! It’s difficult to do, but lots of people did. Organizations like She Should Run exist to help people navigate the challenges of doing so. If you’re too young (members of the house have to be at least 25) you could have found someone you liked, and demanded every day that they run until you effectively bullied them into it. If you would only vote for, say, a fully Communist candidate, you had two years to present that idea to the general public and raise momentum for that movement until a candidate who shared your views emerged. But you didn’t, or didn’t do it well enough. I guess you weren’t inspiring enough. Possibly because you’re the kind of person who can’t even be bothered to wake up early and go vote.

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I have heard a metaphor that says that choosing not to vote because the candidate is imperfect is like saying, “I wanted Diet Coke, but they only offered Pepsi, so I have decided to drink poison.” That’s flawed, because it implies that the only person affected by your decision is you. Choosing to stay home is more like saying, “I wanted Diet Coke, but they only offered Pepsi, so I am cool with hundreds of children being permanently separated from their parents.” Politics matter. Elections have consequences for people who are not just you.

In the face of that, it is not moral to abstain. It is lazy. As a general rule, moral actions are not ones that allow you to stay at home watching The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell. The more moral choice in most cases is the one that is at least mildly inconvenient.

No one of either party hears about your decision to not vote when you can and thinks, “what a principled, upstanding young person.” They just think you’re self indulgent and lazy.

So vote.

It is literally the least you can do.

And you get a sticker, so that’s nice.

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